20 Things that surprise me about Guatemala

1. The food is basically meat, carb with tortilla on the side. A bit like in Mexico but without the spice- with chicken and chips on every menu. 

A picture from a tuk tuk ride.  

A picture from a tuk tuk ride.  

2. Seeing that all the ancient ruins are Mayan, you'd think it was a dead civilisation. Well, it is old but it also current. Mayan is still spoken frequently and cultural traditions are fiercely protected. People here are proud of their heritage- and who wouldn't be with the Mayan legacy? 

3. Chocolate was invented by the Mayans. It's nicest drunk as hot chocolate, made with ground cocoa beans, hot milk, honey and chilli powder.

4. You can't buy instant hot chocolate in the shops  

Ingredients for a Mayan hot chocolate.  

Ingredients for a Mayan hot chocolate.  

5. Coffee is grown here but everyone serves Nescafé instant.  

6. It is cold and rainy in the higher altitudes around Guatemala city, Antigua and Lake Atitlan. This came as a shock to me as I wept, parting with the beach sarongs and realised we had to stock up on warm things.

7. Security guards are often young and innocent looking, whilst packing machine guns. 

8. In Guatemala City, Mike saw someone pull a gun on a car driver who rear-ended him at a junction. For this reason we didn't really feel like exploring the place much.

Women, carrying baskets on their heads. 

Women, carrying baskets on their heads. 

9. That image of a Guatemalan woman, in traditional clothes, carrying a basket of wares on her head and a baby on her back? Real. 

10. Men wear cowboy hats.  

11. The foreign office website doesn't seem to think Guatemala is very safe. It's important to check your routes carefully as the border roads can be dicey- as such we have always been careful and felt totally safe (except in Guatemala City) 

12. The currency, Quetzales is named after its national bird. There are approximately 10 Quetzales to the £1.  

13. Buses come with airport style security checks and an armed guard on board. 

14. Unskilled workers earn as little as £2.50 per day.  

15. The bangs that go off all through the night are not guns. They are fireworks being set off to honour various saints days as it is a Catholic country. Or maybe guns, but I'm choosing to believe the fireworks story. 

Marshmallow roasting on Pacaya volcano.

Marshmallow roasting on Pacaya volcano.

16. The people are SO warm and welcoming. 

17. There are live volcanoes that you can climb and roast marshmallows in gaps in the ground.

18. We were happy to find out that tuk tuks are used here- just like in Asia.

Beautiful handmade fabrics.

Beautiful handmade fabrics.

19. Guatemalan fabrics are beautiful, hand made and brightly coloured. I bought a table cloth for £20. It took 3 weeks to make.

20. We have been more sick in Guatemala than any other country we have visited. 

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